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Why Does Maritime Trade Cause Marine Pollution?


Published 05 Jun 2021

Why Does Maritime Trade Cause Marine Pollution?

Why Does Maritime Trade Cause Marine Pollution?


While transoceanic shipping remains a vital part of the world economy, seas and oceans are polluted by intense maritime traffic. Liquid and solid waste is discharged by ships and other marine vehicles which cause sea pollution. Although the impact of pollution caused by maritime traffic appears at a low rate of 11% compared to other pollution parameters, it constitutes a significant percentage of 21% when combined with the pollution from discharges.


With this article we would like to draw attention to the impact of maritime transport on the environment and our seas/oceans, due to June 5 World Environment Day and June 8 World Ocean Day.


How Did The Transport By Waterway Start?

The history of transportation on water goes back thousands of years. Since then, people have used water to help them transport cargo from one place to another. Because water is the one thing that mankind needs to survive and due to the fact that water enables more efficient travel compared to going over land civilizations have always been settled near and around water. The first “ships” were single logs that small cargo was attached to and floated down river for trade. Eventually, logs were tied together to carry bigger cargos.


Early civilizations, which arose by waterways, depended on watercraft for transport. The Egyptians were probably the first to use seagoing vessels (c. 1500 BCE); the Phoenicians, Cretans, Greeks, and Romans also all relied on waterways.


During the Age of Discovery in the 15th – the 19th centuries, advances in navigation and shipbuilding allowed Europeans to voyage across the Atlantic. Trade companies developed. The Suez Canal opened shipping between Europe and Asia without going around Africa. The Panama Canal connected the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.


Our article about the Ever Given disaster that took place in the Suez Canal last March and brought world trade to a halt can be found here.


The U.S. and England were the ascendant shipping nations in the 19th century; Germany, Norway, Japan, the Netherlands and France joined them in the early 20th century, with Greece dominating the industry by the century’s end.


The Advantages Of Maritime /Sea Transportation

Waterways are critically important to the transportation of people and goods throughout the world. Marine transportation drives global trade, moving 10 billion tons of containers, solid, and liquid bulk cargo across the world’s seas annually. It is indispensable to foreign trade and has become the most popular way due to following advantages:

Unfortunately, despite all above advantages, increased maritime traffic causes pollution of the seas by ships.


Marine Pollution Due To Maritime Trade

Marine pollution is an important and current problem that has been threatening the whole world since the beginning of the 20th century. The sea, which has been a source of life for people for centuries, has been used as a waste disposal area in recent years. Our oceans and seas are being flooded with two main types of pollution: chemicals and trash.


Bilge waste is among the issues that come to the fore with environmental problems in certain periods. Bilge, known as the waste left by ships, can cause pollution in the seas and coasts.


Bilge is the aft lower compartment of the ship where the diesel water leaking from the ship and the oil substances flowing from the engine and boiler rooms are collected. All the dirty wastes are collected in the bilge tank of 5-15 tons in the ship's hold. Every ship, whether it's a container ship, an oil tanker or a cargo ship, produces bilge water, which is a constant disposal problem.


It is strictly prohibited by law to discharge the bilge waters into the seas or streams. Fines are issued, and the captain may even be prosecuted. Despite this, unfortunately, our seas continue to be polluted due to those who do not comply with the laws.


Accidental oil spills in the 1960s, caused widespread coastal pollution and seabird mortality, triggered the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL). MARPOL is the main international convention to prevent marine pollution by ships from operational or accidental causes. Additionally, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) uses various instruments to protect the marine environment from shipping activities.


Nevertheless, marine transportation still generates negative impacts on the marine environment, including air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, releases of ballast water containing aquatic invasive species, oil and chemical spills, dry bulk cargo releases, garbage, underwater noise pollution. In addition to its negative effects on health and the environment, it also harms the local fishing and tourism industries.


Mucilage Nightmare In The Sea of Marmara

One of the cases of marine pollution experienced nowadays is mucilage in the Sea of Marmara. The mucilage known as 'sea saliva' that has enveloped the surface and depths of the water since the end of last year, continues its effect by extending along the shores.


The Sea o Marmara is an inland sea that connects the Black Sea to the Aegean Sea and the Mediterranean. It is connected to the Black Sea by the Bosphorus and to the Aegean Sea by the Dardanelles. Sea of Marmara has an intense maritime traffic because of its geographic and geopolitical position. 


Sea saliva, which has been stuck in the nets of fishermen at the bottom of the sea for a long time and preventing fishing along the Sea of Marmara, surfaced along the shores from Istanbul to Tekirdağ (Rodosto) and covered the sea in recent weeks, which has brought concerns.